Archive for Migrants

Friendship not Fences

Posted in Current Affairs with tags , , , , on August 2, 2015 by richardhowle

It strikes me as a somewhat of a paradox that the people who rail against those migrants trying to enter into the UK are often the same people who rail against the UK International Development programme.
Over the past few weeks the UK Government has given France millions of Pounds to help boost security in and around the Channel ports and Eurotunnel, but just think how much more effectively that money could be if it were spent in the countries where these poor souls were coming from.

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What can they be fleeing from that means that they are risking life and limb, undergoing horrendous conditions in order to cross two continents to reach this small island? Surely we would be better off trying to address those issues, the root cause of the problems around the Channel ports, rather than dealing with it once they have battled their way to get here. Quite frankly, if migrants have endured the treacherous journey to get here, then a few extra fences are not going to stop them.

By not addressing the root cause of why these people are wishing to leave their countries we are only creating a vicious circle. We need to ensure that there is more reason for people to stay in their country of birth than to leave it, because this situation is fast becoming critical. Not for the wealthy nations of Europe (despite what you may read in the Daily Mail), but for the countries where these migrants are coming from. With thousands of (mainly young) leaving, these countries are being stripped of a generation who, if they were to stay, could build and develop their countries into thriving and prosperous nations. Because, (and perhaps most importantly of all), the people who are leaving the country are amongst those who are best equipped to undertake that rebuilding – the educated middle classes.

It is too easy to dehumanise the migrants, we are encouraged by our politicians and our media to view them as inferior. We all know the name of the lion that was killed this week, but how many of us can name one of the migrants who died trying to cross the Channel this week? But these people are intelligent and (relative to their country-folk) prosperous individuals -it costs thousands of dollars for them to make the journey. The people who are camped in and around Calais are not the poor and the destitute, they are the educated elite, who can speak a foreign language, who have been schooled, who have been sent by their families over here as they have the best prospects of making a better life for themselves.

That is why International Development is so important, in order to avert “crisis” over here (and really in World terms, a few extra hours waiting to catch a ferry is not really a crisis) we need to avoid a proper crisis in the countries where this brain drain is occurring. We need investment to create development programmes so that there is an alternative and opportunity for those people who currently see no other option than to travel thousands on miles in search of a better life. Let us help them to create a better life for themselves and their families and their country and to put an end to the vicious circle.

That, for me, is why is why the International Development budget is so important and why those who are complaining about the migrant issue should be supportive of it. Now, how that budget is spent and used is a whole different subject – why we continue to give aid to countries that have a space programme (India) is a mystery to me. It is this that should be at the heart of international development debate – not the budget itself.

And, finally, how do we solve the current situation, which isn’t really a crisis – but more of a tragedy? Because what I have spoken about here is a long term fix and doesn’t address the current problem of thousands of migrants who are currently at the mercy of ruthless people smugglers. It isn’t going to be solved by the French paying British holiday makers compensation (thanks for that helpful intervention, Harriet Harman), it can only be solved by an EU wide effort – putting proper investment into processing migrants when they first arrive in Europe and arranging for the fair and safe relocation of them across the whole continent. At least by controlling the situation at the point of arrival we can protect migrants from exploitation, injury and death and start treating them as human beings.